Mitchell County brute goes down to WNC hunter

Mitchell County brute
Justin Grindstaff pursued this Mitchell County buck for a long time before finally killing it with an 80-yard shot from his crossbow.

80-yard crossbow shot kills big trophy

Justin Grindstaff of Spruce Pine, N.C. killed a Mitchell County brute on Nov. 27. The buck green-scored 160 7/8 inches and had 20 total points, with 15 big enough to score. Grindstaff said the big deer was a blessing, and the end of a long pursuit.

“About three years ago, I started praying that the Lord would send me the deer of a lifetime. And I had pictures of this deer for three years. And last season, he showed up again around Dec. 16. I started hunting it like crazy and ended up missing the deer on the week of Christmas,” he said.

That was the last time Grindstaff saw the buck for some time. During the spring, the hunter put in a lot of work trying to attract the deer back. He watched his trail cameras closely. As the summer approached, the deer came back and Grindstaff observed it through photos as the rack grew out for this season.

At the beginning of the 2019 bow season, Grindstaff got another opportunity to kill the deer. But again, he missed.

“I watched him grow all spring and all summer long. And I actually had another opportunity at the beginning of bow season. But it was the same thing; I missed him again,” he said. “So then I had to work again to try to find this deer and get back on him.”

Grindstaff encountered a lot of bad luck from then on, and he began to realize the deer had him figured out.

Elusive buck watched Grindstaff’s movements closely

“If I was there, I’d never see him. But if I wasn’t there, I was getting pictures of him. And when I was there, as soon as I’d leave, he’d show up on camera,” he said.

The buck became an obsession for Grindstaff. He said he was driving his wife and family nuts over it.

After some thought and more scouting, the hunter decided to create a makeshift stand for himself in a different location. He felt like the deer had him patterned too good at his usual stand. After getting the new site ready, he went home, stayed up most of the night with his daughter, who was sick, then overslept the next morning.

“At that point, I was frustrated at myself for oversleeping and I thought there was no point in going hunting that day. I started thinking about how long of a shot I would need to take at this new stand and decided to take my crossbow instead of my bow. So I went on in there and sat,” he said.

The plan worked. After waiting less than an hour, some does appeared out of a laurel. Grindstaff put his rangefinder on them and measured about 80 yards, well within his range of comfort with his Ravin R26 crossbow. Then, in the same laurel, he saw a rack moving.

Big buck showed up, but almost left too quickly

“I knew it had to be him. He ended up coming into the clearing about 60 yards from me, perfectly broadside. I tried to get an accurate range on him with my rangefinder and for some reason, it just wouldn’t pick him up. So the deer moved up until he was about 90 yards away from me,” he said.

This was stretching Grindstaff’s comfortable shooting distance. He steadied himself and rested his crossbow as solidly as he could, put the pin on the buck, and pulled the trigger.

“It seemed like it took 30 minutes for the bolt to reach him. I could hear it whizzing through the air,” he said.

He hit the deer high, but at first, he thought he’d shot over its back. But, then he thought he heard the deer crash. He went looking. Right away, he found his bolt covered in blood and hair. But he didn’t see the Mitchell County brute. He didn’t even see any other traces of blood.

Phone call from coworker ends the hunt

Grindstaff was on land owned by the company he works for, and as he searched for the deer, he got a phone call from a coworker.

“He asked me if I was hunting that day, and I told him I was, but that I was about to leave because I was pretty sure I’d made a bad shot and wounded this deer. He told me that no, I’d made a good shot. He told me the deer was on the ground,” he said.

From the spot of the shot, the buck had traveled over 900 yards before falling for good. Grindstaff said without the other hunter being there, he would have never thought to travel that far to look for the deer.

When caping out the deer, Grindstaff saw that his bolt had passed through one lung and cracked the animal’s spine.

“I really chalk it up to the good Lord blessing me. I can’t see it working out the way it did without Him having his hand in that hunt,” he said. “It was an amazing and emotional experience for me.”

About Brian Cope 2784 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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